A View From Israel: Our indestructible national pride

Israel may have lost the games, but the country has so much more to offer.

August 9, 2012 15:53
3 minute read.
The Israeli delegation at the 2012 London Olympics

The Israeli delegation at the 2012 London Olympics 370 (R). (photo credit: Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

For most Israelis, anything not having to do with the Arab- Israeli conflict is a breath of fresh air. On a daily basis, our newspapers are filled with the latest news and analyses on the so-called peace talks, missile fire from Gaza, threats of extermination coming out of Iran and threats coming from Hezbollah. Anti-Semitism is making waves on Egyptian television and somehow Israel is responsible for the mess in Syria.

The 2012 London Olympics has given Israelis something else to talk about, something else to dream of. Ever since Yael Arad brought home Israel’s first Olympic medal from the 1992 Barcelona games, our country has continued to aim for the top in sports and athletics.

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It is a positive distraction from our otherwise heavy lives, weighed down by the prospect of being attacked again by our hateful enemies or watching the results of another tragedy on TV.

Our hopes high and our spirits light, we wished our athletes good luck and sent them off with a pat on the back hoping they would bring back a medal.

However, it is clear that enthusiasm alone cannot win the Olympic Games.

Arik Ze’evi’s fourth and final Olympics lasted just 43 seconds last Thursday.

Alex Shatilov only managed sixth place in the gymnastics floor final on Sunday.

Shahar Zubari’s bitterly disappointing event ended on a sweet note on Sunday when he won the 10th race of the men’s windsurfing after finishing the ninth out of 26. The bronze medalist from the 2008 Beijing Games ended the competition in 19th place overall and at no stage came near to challenging for a medal as he had been expected to.

Lee Korzits could only manage a sixth-place finish in the women’s windsurfing competition on Tuesday.

Gidi Kliger and Eran Sela ended the men’s 470 Class sailing competition in a humbling 15th place on Tuesday. The duo was hoping to challenge for a medal, but finished only two of the 10 races in Weymouth in the top 10.

As of this writing, it seems unlikely that Neta Rivkin or Zohar Zemiro will scale the podium.

For other countries, failure to win a medal at an Olympic event could be viewed as a major setback for the country’s athletes and citizens. For them, sport is the national belief and winning is the national goal.

And without a doubt, our country’s setbacks at the Olympics are a huge disappointment for our athletes, trainers and fans at home.

But Israelis have so much more than sports. We have our national homeland.

We have the highest level of Torah study that has occurred here in centuries.

As a highly popular tourist destination, our country clearly has much to offer in the way of academia, leisure, history, archeology and nightlife.

We have the Dead Sea, Judea and Samaria, the Ramon Crater, Masada and, of course, Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

We have innovation in technology, science and art.

We have our history.

Israelis – Jews everywhere – have so much to be proud of.

So when Korzits said, “I hope that everyone will still love me even though I failed,” all of Israel must have thought the same thing: Of course we do. We have so much else to be proud of that your participation, loss, and subsequent strength are still an achievement for us.

Just the fact that we are a Jewish country participating in a major international event is an achievement. Who would have thought in 1936 that the next time the Olympics came around, a Jewish state would exist? We Jews know how to move on, because we’ve always had to.

As a nation, we’ve had our failures, mistakes and tragedies. We’ve had our rough winds, choppy waters and missteps, our close calls and defeats.

But we have always triumphed.

We have a fabulous past and a bright future ahead.

So what’s a few missed Olympic medals to us?

“A View From Israel” will appear next on August 24.

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